Rob Van Dam has received every honor a professional wrestler could.
He’s a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. A former WWE champion. A former TNA champion. He was a star in WCW, a star in Japan, and whenever the mood strikes him, he’s in the main event of any independent show in the country.
Van Dam’s career has had many highlights, many great matches and many great championship runs, but the best time in his career is arguably when he was the face of Extreme Championship Wrestling in Philadelphia.
It’s where he became Mr. Monday Night, where he became the “whole show,” the star of every pay per view and according to many, the best wrestler in the world.
And on Saturday night, he gets an honor that is long overdue.
During Battleground Championship Wrestling’s show at the former ECW Arena, Van Dam’s name will finally hang in the rafters of the 2300 Arena when he enters the building’s hall of fame.
He’ll also be in his usual spot of the main event when he wrestles former ECW rival Rhino to highlight the sold-out show.
Van Dam often talked about how he loved wrestling in the Philadelphia-based promotion because there were no restraints. He simply went out and had the best match on the show, reaching new heights just about every night.
And the showoff enjoyed doing moves nobody saw before. He took pride in doing things other wrestlers couldn’t do. He refused to leave the ring until his fans got exactly what they paid to see. He loved performing for the fans.
But Van Dam wasn’t the biggest star in the promotion because of his wrestling. It helped, but his connection with the fans is what made him ECW’s main man.
From the first rift of Pantera’s “Walk,” the fans would be on their feet, using their thumbs to point to themselves in honor of Van Dam. Then, he would high five as many fans as he could, celebrating the night before he ever stepped foot in the ring.
Van Dam might have grown up in Michigan, and he might now live in Vegas, but no matter where he’s from or where he goes, he’ll always be one of us.
“I’ve got so many good memories from having so much fun back in the late ’90s there and it’s always cool to visit, feel that energy,” said Van Dam, who will be inducted into the hall by one of his best rivals, Jerry Lynn. “The city has a certain energy. I feel it in the people, I (love) going to Tony Luke’s and even though I wasn’t born here, it’s kind of a home because I walk around everyone knows me, they think I lived there.
“A lot of ECW wrestlers did, so they didn’t know I was flying in from the other coast, I appreciate that. It’s like an accepting feeling. NYC does it to me as well. In Philly, I’d be walking down the street, a garbage truck will go by and they’ll yell RVD!”
Philly fans will act like RVD’s their guy, and while that’s true, he later had that same connection with fans all over the world.
He’s one of the very few wrestlers whom the WWE never successfully turned bad, even when it tried. They pitted him against Steve Austin, the Rock, Kurt Angle and John Cena.
It didn’t matter.
When Van Dam was in the ring, the fans were chanting his name.
In fact, other than when he was known as a traitor to the original ECW, which is ironic because he never wanted to leave and was the catalyst for bringing the promotion back, promotions never really found a way to get fans to boo him.
Don’t expect that to change on Saturday.
“Philadelphia is where I cut my teeth,” Van Dam said. “It’s where I learned to put everything together, not only to become a superstar in this business, but in Philadelphia, I had to live up to the standards and demands of the ECW fans.
“I’d go out and Paul Heyman said give it what you got. Even on pay per view, he’d say go out and feel it. I’m not sure if it was unprecedented, but it allowed me the freedom to make connection. Fans counted on Rob Van Dam, as a wrestler and an artist, it was exactly what you’d want.”
Van Dam tries to give his fans what they want in everything he does.
He’s getting a lot of attention for his YouTube channel, RVD Current AF. He sells CBD products at his store, RVDCBD, and according to experts, his products are the best out there, and he does some acting and stand-up comedy.
RVD fans seem to gravitate toward anything he does. It’s that connection he always talks about. Many might know him from wrestling, but his fans tend to follow him in other aspects.
But on Saturday, they can celebrate his extreme accomplishments, not just in wrestling, but everything else.
Van Dam isn’t the only match slated for Saturday night. Other marquee matches include Bully Ray against Matt Cardona, and matches involving Shane Douglas, Pit Bull, 2 Cold Scorpio, the FBI, Al Snow and Raven.
While the show is sold out, it will be streamed on Fite TV. And if you want to meet Van Dam, his wife Katie Forbes, any of the ECW guys appearing at night, or current and former stars, including Scott Steiner, Jake Hager and Orange Cassidy, they’ll be taking pictures and signing autographs at the Icons of Wrestling, which will be held Saturday morning at the 2300 Arena.
Tickets available at iconsofwrestling.net.
For more on Van Dam, visit robvandam.com or rvdcbd.com.